There isn’t anything striking or clanging about the arrival, never an announcement or a grand entrance, it’s always more of a day-after-day-after-day insipid stupidity that takes over, thick oatmeal quicksand instead of a wallop of despair, acedia is a bit slower, a creep of a thing. And I’m feeling it, the acedia, the desert fathers and mothers called it the noonday-demon. Different than sloth, it’s more of a spiritual ennui or boredom, an exhaustion of why-bother-nothing-matters.

I used to call it depression, but it’s not. That is a real things, a clinical thing, and this is just me, feeling bored, stupid, tired out, listless, sad, burned out, day after day after endless-never-ending-day.

I blame a lot of things: poor food choices, late nights reading, hot weather, summertime, too much time online, wrong focus, temperament. But it’s none of those things at the root, not really. It might be sin eventually, but at the beginning, it’s simply a season of my soul, a sign post for my spirit, when I recognise it, a sign that I am worn out, and to continue like this is to continue to despair.

But I don’t really tackle this with the traditional work associated with my spirituality: fasting, prayer, singing, church, bible studies, go and do, memorize Scripture, and write a few more entries on my list of 1000 gifts.

No, I simply get to work.

It’s probably the prairie kid thing, combined with the evangelical-mutt thing, but when acedia slinks into my soul, spreading into every corner of my life with an ooze, when my mind is fuzzy and apathetic, when I’m listless and worn out, burned out, on religion and parenting and marriage and family and everything about my life, I get to the daily, methodical, healing goodness of real work.

I cook. I bake. I do laundry. I clean my washrooms. I vacuum. I organise our closets. I knit. I stop reading late at night. I take morning walks in my favourite places. I stop checking the Internet. I even stop writing. I stop anything that requires me to think or feel too-too much.

Nope, it’s the good, hard, real work of life, the repetitive work, the work that lets me rock back onto my heels with a satisfied feeling, a look-what-I-have-accomplished sense, that saves me in these seasons.

I bring order to my soul with the ordinary work, the ordinary love, the ordinary beauty of the every day life, and funny as it may be, it’s where I find that space of pause, the shut off switch for my never-ending-inner-monologue that so irritates me, my first-world problems and my over-analysing, my evangelical hero complex.

The work of my hands and my body pauses any existential crisis, the daily work of living redeems, and I feel the acedia fading with each day of right choices, one after another, each step of pushing back the darkness with fabric softener, veggies, backyard camping, laughter seeking, and newly-white bookcases in the fading sun.

I do the things I don’t have the natural inclination or desire to do, out of sheer stubborness: shower, put on make-up, get up early for a walk, make meals for my family, clean, fold underwear. I turn on the Olympics, and I scrub my floor, I bath them all and clip 60 nails of little hands, I make sure every one is drinking their water. It helps move me along, move me through the valley, somehow.

And God is there, in the daily quotidian rhythms of my day, without straining and earnest seeking, simply there, always there, always present, and when I go to bed at a decent time yet again, some part of me begins to find joy, contentment, peace, and I receive the gift of hope, all over again.

[sarah]

Yes, Kathleen Norris is another patron saint. Her slim book “The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and Womens’ Work”  and New York Times Bestseller “Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life” saved my life a time or two.

In which [love looks like] an empty birdhouse
In which my heart just sits down
thank you for sharing...
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  • Fiona

    I love this, Sarah. I feel exactly the same at the moment. Thank you for articulating it so beautifully and clearly. Sending solidarity x

  • beth lehman

    this is beauty, my friend. yes, beauty.

  • mizmelly

    thankyou, sarah. just bought Quotidian Mysteries and it’s making a major difference to my day to day. thank you. x

  • good gracious, friend. this? it’s pure.

  • Sus

    Beautiful and right.

  • Sarah, this is soul-stirring in the authentic, raw, real, beautiful word weaving. Thank you for “tackling” this place that one’s soul, mind, and heart travel to, drift to, during seasons of our lives. Thank you so very much. Beautiful. And my heart hopes for you to journey to a place of utter peace and joy, soon, so so soon.

  • When I get into “that” place, too often I waste time and energy trying to figure out why, trying to figure out what I need or what’s missing. What a simple and beautiful approach you offer here. Just get to work. Keep moving. Do the work that’s in front of you right now. Thank you.

  • faithruluv

    Lovely, as always.

  • This is lovely and true, and yes, this is how I fight acedia too. Thanks for this, Sarah.

  • God does indeed save us in the simple routines of life. Thank you for this.

  • This is me today, right now, and oh how I needed this today. Thank you

  • Tania

    Thank you for baring your soul to those of us who feel the same pains and know we are not alone. Now to bury my acedia in laundry, bed making, and meal preparing.

  • Thank you Sarah, I feel my soul breathing deeply and able to exhale.
    Such truth in your thoughts about getting to work!
    Just simply love this piece!

  • Amen to all of that!!!! It is funny how that work, that what we call ordinary work, is redeeming!

    And Kathleen Norris-oh dear, saves me over and over again!!!

    This is an out-breath post….feels good to even read it!

    Thank you

  • Jess stock

    This completely resonates with me. Truly there is grace, therapy, in the work. When my grandmother passed away this summer I got to read her journals, so often she wrote about the pleasure she found in her housework. I know that she struggled with depression but hard work is what often could save her, as it does me.

  • Diana Trautwein

    Yup. Get this. ‘Cept now I want a nap.

  • Marina Lehman

    Okay, you know what, Sarah? You. You are saving my life right now. (Well, you and Kathleen Norris.) I always enjoy reading your blog, but you’ve put up several posts recently that have been to my soul what that first long drag on the straw in a perfect iced latte is to my body. A moment of bliss.

  • Sophia West

    mhmm… thank you for this.

  • the Blah Blah Blahger

    Lovely, Sarah…just lovely.

  • Linda Stoll

    yes … aren’t the best days when we can stay home, putter around, and play house? that’s what seems to bring me back to balance, back to what’s most important, back to peace in the depths of who I am.
    all that being said, please rest when you can …

  • Acedia & Me is brilliant (or at least, it will be when I finish it), but I need to get my hands on Quotidian Mysteries. Thank you…

  • Lisa

    Seriously, one of the best things I’ve ever read. So I’ve read it a few times and shared it so others might read too. Gold.

  • KathleenBasi

    Sarah, this is so me right now. Right where I am, with the addition of feeling overwhelmed. I need to do as you say: dig in, work, stop wallowing.

  • Trisha T

    Thanks! It is easy for me to get waylaid by that feeling and distracted from what matters. I am putting your lovely picture and quote on my desktop.

  • Joanne

    Yes, 100% + sadness of finishing a good but sad book. Just floors me.

  • I think maybe this is a gift we’ve lost in the 21st century, with so many machines at our beck and call and so much of our lives wrapped up in our heads. We are flesh, and we miss a simple joy by being in it. I feel the same way about day-to-day work. When I tune into it, It is a spiritual discipline to me, a basic task that reveals God’s glory.

  • Est

    This has spoken to me so much. Thank you. I now realise why I have spent the whole day cleaning, with the olympics in the background. (so proud of my city right now).

  • I really connect to this. Thanks.

  • charity jill

    You know what is …er…depressing? I was meditating on acedia as I laid in bed last night. I was ruminating on it, thinking about how I would explain it to a roomful of Christians (now, there’s a rich fantasy life for you…). I’m so glad you have found ways to resist letting it take root. For me, when I’m feeling “dissipated,” the most difficult thing is making myself be around other Christians without taking solace in cynicism (which is a fancy word for a superiority complex). I haven’t been seeing this taking root in my attitude as of late, until halfway through writing this comment…darn the ways God works sometimes.

  • Lacey Ogle

    Wow. A friend forwarded this to me and it spoke to me so profoundly. Have read it a few times. Still processing. May respond more when thoughts have settled. Thank you.

  • Lori Biesecker

    Thank you for this. I first heard the term acedia when I picked up Norris’s Acedia and Me. I think some form of it affects us all from time to time. For me, a combination of speaking kindly to myself and doing just what you do — manual labor — is the answer. I think our society in the “developed” world has foolishly lost the knowledge of the mental health benefits of being physically tired from working with our bodies.

  • rachel

    This reminds me of the Zen phrase, “Before Enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” So fitting for my Christian walk as well.

  • Torey

    Hi Sarah, I just wanted to let you know how helpful this post was to me. While I don’t think I currently have acedia, I recently broke up with someone, and the “simply getting to work” concept has been something I have been frequently thinking about and using to help me get through this time. When I sit for too long with certain feelings I remind myself to get to work! Thank you.